Quick correction to last episode, I may have mentioned Axel Theubeville as a member of Stratovarius last week, this is not the case, he was simply the founder of Shark Records which has a relationship with the band and sometimes co produced with Timo Tolkki
General correction/clarification, we mentioned Steeler a lot, want to specify that there are two prominent bands called Steeler, the one in America that was formed by Ron Keel, and the german Steeler featuring Axel Rudi Pell
Big shout out to Iron Fist’s recent Noise features and to author, David Gehlike who wrote Damn The Machine
Speed metal is an oft misunderstood genre. Speed is sometimes considered a precursor to thrash metal, and is often seen as coming into being midway through the NWOBHM, neither of these ideas are 100% accurate.
First, let’s address why Speed is not necessarily a precursor to Thrash. For one, the timing doesn’t match. With the exception of particular songs by Judas Priest, Budgie, Deep Purple, and some faster Sabbath songs, Speed metal truly didn’t truly became a “thing” around 1982 and 1983. As we know there were several prominent thrash bands that had already been formed, and/or had albums released by this time. Yes, some early speed metal bands did eventually become Thrash metal bands, but this is not the default course of evolution for speed metal, it is more accurate to say many speed metal bands saw the success of thrash and changed course, then to say speed begat thrash.
I believe that the confusion stems in part from a few big names that inspired both genres, like Motorhead, and Venom, who are often labeled as speed metal, but it’s more accurate to say they were sort of a proof of concept, and inspiration for already developing speed metal bands. The thrash and speed scenes took different elements from these common roots and created two different genres. While thrash took the first wave punk influences of these bands, and took notes from the burgeoning hardcore movement, particularly in vocal stylings, Speed metal tends to shed the punk rock elements, focused more on pure technicality, clean vocals,and an overall more melodic sound. Even when harsh vocals are present, they tend to be a little less abrasive and barky than in thrash metal, and tend to be employed for slightly more atmospheric purposes than in thrash. Again this is a broad stokes generalization when it comes to vocals.
Next, let’s address the supposed UK origins of speed, while some of the band’s most associated with early speed metal, i.e. Raven, and Atomkraft were from the UK, bands that were slowly be developing their sound into speed metal go back as far as 1974, and are found outside of Britain, in places like the U.S. (Zoetrope, Riot), Canada (Exciter), Poland (Kat), Brazil (Stress) and Belgium (Acid). While it can be inferred that not all these bands were playing speed metal that far back, we can concede that while speed metal did come of age during the NWOBHM period, it arose independently in multiple locations. Giving all that credit to that movement is doing a disservice to the bands throughout the world who were also experimenting with this style.
In Germany specifically speed metal first started showing up en masse around 1981, and was pushed by bands like Mad Butcher, Warlock (to an extent), Living Death, early Holy Moses, and Tyrant. As mentioned previously these early bands would be linked more to traditional metal, or were slowly turning into Thrash bands. They would not, as the bands we’re discussing today did, integrate 80s power metal into their sound.
Power Metal is often also somewhat misunderstood. The modern power metal sound is often seen as being an evolution speed metal and this is true, as the bands we’re discussing today that stuck around would morph into what we would recognize as power metal, and speed metal, as it’s own separate entity would functionally cease to exist, we do need to take a step back and recognize that power metal existed prior to this transitionary period for both genres.
Primitive power metal is usually linked back to Rainbow, and this may actually be a fair sentiment, though I would argue that some of the bands born from the heavy psych movement had started integrating themes we would see in later power metal a year or so prior to this. Outside of Rainbow one of the best known early examples is the band Heavy Load from Sweden, who released their debut album Full Speed at High Level in 1976. Heavy Load coincidently is also often considered the originators of viking metal
For it’s formative years the genre would really be one of lyrical content, with most of the early examples also passing for of the era traditional metal, or hard rock, just with a focus on high fantasy, the supernatural and history, a la Legend who we discussed in episode II. Canadian bodybuilder Jon Mikl Thor was also an early inspiration on power metal, especially on Manowar, his debut Keep the Dogs Away was released in 1977. His stage shows would also be a major influence on later bands, complete with battle armor and feats of strength.
This movement again is often linked to the NWOBHM, and while some of the more prominent figures of early power metal and its precursors do come from england, power metal, much like speed sprung up independently all over the world at around the same time, which speaks more to the idea that it arose because of who was listening to metal and going out and starting bands, than it does to show a clear point of origin
Around 1984 Speed metal would start incorporating power metal lyrical themes, unsentimental ballads, and unique instrumentation that would later be synonymous with Power metal later in the decade. This is the period we are focusing on here, particularly in Germany, which was at the center of this trend. While many of the albums we are discussing today pre-date the bands shift to pure power metal, when taken in as a whole the seeds of power metal are undoubtedly present. However, before we move forward we need to discuss another contributor and comrade to the early speed/power scene, Black Metal
Black metal is a scene so associated with the 90s that I think a quick reminder is due that the genre has origins that predate the golden age of Norway. The genre was already established by the mid 80’s. Venom’s status as the first black metal is still pretty much set in stone, with at least 3 or 4 albums under their belt by the mid 80s. While there are some bands, including Torr who are associated with Black metal that formed in the 70’s I can find no physical evidence of anything that could be called Black metal prior to Venom’s 1980 Demon Demo, with the exception of the vocals on Cro-Magnon’s song Caledonia from 1969. If something does surface through deeper research or in years to come, similar to the proto-punk band Death or Electric Eels, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone actually influenced by something prior to Venom
I think even among those aware of the 80’s Black Metal material there is this idea that it was a genre undefined, and these albums were so weird they defied classification, but this is not the case. Black metal was a known commodity in Europe by the end of the 80s and in fact the Lucifer’s Heritage demos being placed into black metal bins in record shops is one of the reasons Blind Guardian changed their name. In addition to Bathory’s S/T debut dropping in 1984, we would have the Czech band 666, Torr, AntiChrist, Hell (which possibly featured members of Destruction) and Semen of Satan in Germany, and Bulldozer from Italy all releasing debuts, or having demos floating around tape trading circles at the time. In addition it is worth mentioning that 666 in Norway (no relation) was also performing live around this time, though no recorded output of the band existed until 1998. They are often considered the first Norwegian black metal band.
I would highly recommend people check out some of the bands mentioned on a playlist I put together. While this is a subject that deserves further exploration later on down the road, I want people to at least be aware of these bands existence. As we’ll see many of the bands we’re discussing today, while still creating the building blocks of power metal, would not be out of place on a show flyer with Bathory. Satan and the occult would play a much larger role in the formative days of these bands then many would expect. Because Power and Black are often seen essentially as polar opposites, I think it’s important for fans of both genres to be aware of a time and place where this was not the case.
History of Noise
Noise Records was formed by Karl-Ulrich Walterbach. Karl grew up in Rheine, North Rhine-Westphalia, he entered college in 1971, and graduated with an engineering degree in 1974. During his time in college he became involved in leftist politics, and he expanded on this post graduation with a move to Berlin, where he aligned himself with a leftist counterculture movement called the Sponti’s. Soon after he moved to Berlin in 1976 he would be arrested and given a 15 month prison sentence stemming from a protest he had been involved with in response to the death of journalist, radical leftist, and depending on one’s definition terrorist, Ulrike Meinhof who had been found hanged in her cell while under investigation for her involvement in the Red Army Faction, specifically the May offensive terror attacks
Post imprisonment he stepped back from these active revolutionary groups and became involved in the Berlin punk scene, organizing one of the first major punk festivals in 1979 and helping open the KZ36 (Kommunikations Zentrum) venue. This led to the formation of his label Aggressive Rockproduktionen (Rock Productions) which released the highly popular Soundtracks zum Untergang (Soundtracks to the fall) compilations and signed several prominent german language punk bands. He was also directly involved in smuggling out recordings of some German Democratic Republic band’s recordings for distribution outside of occupied East Berlin. Around this time in 1981 Karl also founded Modern Music Records, which would be the parent company of AGR, but would have no other subsidiaries at the time
The label moved away from purely German language releases and began negotiating deals with several US based labels to distribute stateside punk in germany. The most notable contact Karl made was with Greg Ginn of Black Flag and SST records, who was constantly praising the Scorpions and generally talking about the new things happening in metal to what was initially a disbelieving Greg. Around this time Punk sales in Germany were slowing down, and Karl was beginning to look for “the next big thing” but by all accounts he did not think Heavy Metal, which he saw as arena filling cock rock, would be that.
This changed with a visit to LA to see Black Flag perform in 1983. Several metal bands opened for Black Flag. Either at this show, or during this same trip Karl was introduced to Saint Vitus, and almost immediately after the early works of Metal Blade and Megaforce. At the time Metal Blade would have released the first Metal Massacre comp, and depending on when in 1983 this was, possibly early work by Bitch, Demon Flight, Silver Mountain, Savage Grace, Armored Saint, Obsession, Pandemonium and Slayer and Megaforce would have had Mercyful Fate, Metallica, Anthrax, Manowar, Raven, and Venom (Karl has a noted dislike for Venom who along with Raven were already a known commodity at the time)
I can’t find specific reference to it, but I am assuming this “introduction” to Megaforce and Metal Blade was not simply Greg saying “hey check this out” because within a year distribution deals would be set up, and we would see Noise albums distributed by these two companies and vice versa.
When Karl returned to Germany he began looking for the same sort of scene in Germany and according to him, found none. It should be noted that this is a bit hyperbolic. While many sources will imply Scorpions and Accept were the only game in town, there were several german heavy metal bands in Germany at the time dating back to at least 1977. What is more fair to say however is that there was no concrete distribution system, labels, or press. Most releases were put out by labels just taking a chance on something or released independently and were not being promoted the way stateside bands were.
With this revelation, and the declining sales in Punk, AGR became somewhat dormant, though it would continue to repress older releases, and Noise was formed as a new division of Karl’s growing roster of labels, Noise was probably the first true “boutique” label to specialize in metal in germany, and whatever can be said about Karl later, he certainly had an ear for things that were different.
His initial batch of signings would include Running Wild, Grave Digger, S.A.D.O. (S& M themed metal), Railway, Rated X,and Iron Force. Noise also got the rights to distribute Bitch’s first album, which as a reminder was the first ever Metal Blade full length. Further hinting at early talks with Metal Blade.
Some of the earliest Noise releases were in a more hard rock/traditional vein. Some of these early bands were introduced to the label through pre-existing connections Karl had to the industry and thus did not always match the vision he had for the label. This small vein of purely traditional metal in the noise roster would be almost entirely purged by 1986.
While Kreator is often associated with this first batch of signings, most likely because of Noise’s close affiliation with Thrash, it’s worth mentioning in 1983 Kreator still would have been Tormentor, so they realistically probably would not have been signed until at least 1984.
Karl would quickly establish relationships with two important figures in the Noise story. Harris Johns, and Horst Mueller. Harris Johns, son of a Native American solider and a German mother was already an established music producer at the time, and founded the legendary Music Lab studios in 1978. Karl was aware of Harris from the AGR days. Horst Mueller was a Swiss born producer, who worked at Caet studios, and later Horus Sound studios. These studios and the respective producers would become synonymous not only with Noise, but with German Heavy Metal in the 1980s as a whole.
Of the two, Karl has been critical of Harris, stating that he was never a fan of his drum sounds, however the musicians who worked with him are quick to come to his defense, Millie from Kreator in particular has said that he truly was a “producer” and worked closely with bands to preserve their visions. Tankred has also spoken extremely highly of him. Kind words aside, the fact that Tankred, Kreator, as well as Voivoid and Sodomhave all worked with him over multiple albums, and 400 or so other records to his name speak to his abilities
By far some of the most important releases would come in 1984. Most of the real heavy hitters of that batch will be discussed today, but want to touch on the two most notable exceptions. The First being Grave Digger, who was the first band to sign with Noise. Despite later being associated with power metal they were more of a straight ahead traditional band for their first run of albums, and for that reason won’t be discussed today, but will be mentioned in passing.
The most notable releases of 1984 were the Apocalyptic Raids EP by Hellhammer and Morbid Tales by Celtic Frost. If you can’t dig into the entire playlist I would HIGHLY recommend giving both these albums a fresh listen, to better establish the connection between German speed and Black Metal.
Though Noise is universally recognized as an important part of heavy metal’s history, Karl has been harshly criticised by many of his signees. Grave Digger felt abandoned when other band surpassed their popularity, especially after their ill fated commercial album as Digger, 1986’s Stronger than Ever. Similarly Tom Warrior, who initially thought Karl as a kindred spirit who shared their vision, repeatedly found out that he was more interested in them selling records and getting product out in a concise time frame than letting them fiddle with new ideas in the studio. Similar to Grave Digger, the Cold Lake debacle didn’t help matters either. Tom’s feelings on Karl have cropped up in his writings, the recording of Into the Pandemonium being a particular sore spot. Peavy from Rage was also never a fan, feeling as though Karl always regarded them as second stringers. These feelings are echoed by many other bands. As David E. Gehlke, author of Damn the Machine: The Story of Noise Records put it “Karl was not invited to any birthday parties or anniversaries or weddings during his time running Noise.”
There were also several financial disputes, most notably between Noise and Hellloween. This stems from a deal Noise made with EMI to license some Noise material for distribution. Probably because of the sheer amount of success they were having EMI focused in on Helloween, convincing the band that Noise had severely underpaid them, and this led a total of 16 lawsuits which ended up in Noise’s favor. In at least one instance it was discovered that Noise had actually OVERpaid Helloween by $360,000. The legal trouble cost Helloween at least 7 figures, and this combined with the bad reception and lack of sales of Pink Bubbles and Chameleon is actually what led to the temporary dissolution of Helloween.
A noticeable exception to this is Tankred, who have never been overtly critical of Noise. This is widely chalked up to Tankred not being any member of the band’s main source of income. They have always, and continue to have “day jobs” the band being a hobby project more than a career. Simply put, they had less at stake.
It should be noted that none of these complaints are exclusive to Noise, they are problems many bands experienced in the 80s and labels are always the first thing the band blames when a record doesn’t sell. My guess is that because Karl is this younger guy at the time, he has this punk rock background, he’s done time, he built this company independently, and loved going out and finding bands that bands assume he’s this cool dude who “get’s it” and expect him to be this laid back guy who’s in it for the ake of art , and in reality they’re dealing with a man who puts business first, and based on interviews I’ve read, seems to be downright mean when a band fails or goes against his advice. I don’t think Karl is any worse than any other 80s record mogul, his looks are just deceiving.
Noise would not leave the 80’s unscathed however. The failed experiments by it’s bands, waning interest in Thrash, and Karl’s refusal to sign death metal bands led to the label falling on hard times, but the parent company Modern Music Records would continue, finding success with industrial and experimental acts under the Machinery label, and more melodic and power oriented material under the T&T banner. A deal with Hellbound would also establish a connection between Noise and doom metal.
The label would eventually be bought out by Sanctuary, and folded when the parent company Universal Music closed the label in 2007. It was brought back in 2016, but thus far only to reissue it’s back catalog.
Running Wild – Gates to Purgatory
Country: Hamburg, Germany
Formed: 1976 as Granite Hearts, 1979
Disbanded: 2009 (Reformed in 2011)
Label: Noise Records
Producer: Horst Müller (Recording)
Studio: Caet Studio, Berlin, Germany[
Rock’n Rolf – Vocals, Guitars
Preacher – Guitars
Stephan – Bass
Hasche – Drums
Rolf, Uwe Bendig (Guitars), Michael Hofmann (Drums) and Jörg Schwarz (Bass) founded the original band in 1976. By 1978 They were being helped out in the studio on bass by Matthias Kaufmann who was playing in another regional Hamburg band called Grober Unfug. Also a member of this band was Hasche. There is someone named Carsten David credited as an early bassist in Granite Hearts, but unsure when we played with them.
Rolf convinced Mathias to join full time, replacing Jorg, and Mathias convinced Hashe to join as well.
With a solidified line-up Granite Hearts changed their name to Running Wild (After the Judas Priest song) and entered the studio for the first time
This lineup would only remain for their first demo Rock from Hell in 1981, after which Uwe would be replaced by Gerald “Preacher” Warnecke
This lineup would be more stable, they released 3 additional untitled demos, and a German only comp from Noise in 1983 also called Rock from Hell
In 1984 the band would release their first EP Victim of States Power and appear on another Noise Comp called Death Metal w/ Helloween, Dark Avenger and Hellhammer. They also released a comp of their earlier demo material called Heavy Metal like a Hammerblow. All of the tracks from Victim of States Power are present on re-releases of Gates to Purgatory
Gates to Purgatory represents the early sound of the band which in both lyrical content and production was borderline proto-black metal. The lyrics are heavily influenced by anarchic and european libertarianism, as well as satanism.
Though Rolf has always been the primary lyricist for the band Gerald Warnecke’s studies in theology are considered an influence on this album
Gerald would leave the band shortly after the recording of this album to become a Vicar
The band began production on their second album Branded and Exiled almost immediately after this album, and this would be the last of the early satanic tinged work
Victim of State Power – Gerald’s anarchist political leanings
Ghengis Khan – historical subject matter
Helloween – Walls of Jericho (S/T EP)
Country: Hamburg, Germany
Formed: 1978-1981 (As Gentry), 1981-1982 (As Second Hell), 1982-1983 (As Iron Fist), 1983
Label: Noise Records
Producer: Harris Johns
Studio: Musiclab Studio
Artwork: Uwe & Edda Karczewski (Concept by Michael Weikath)
Kai Hansen – Guitars, Vocals
Michael Weikath – Guitars
Markus Grosskopf – Bass
Ingo Schwichtenberg – Drums
The earliest versions of Helloween was called Gentry, and was formed in 1978. In 1981 they would change their name to Second Hell in 1981, and then Iron Fist in 1982. These earliest versions included Piet Sielck on guitar, later of Savage Circus and Iron Savior. He actually helped write a good amount of the material that would be played during this period, though he is not credited on any studio sessions. He was out of the band by the Second Hell period.
Piet was replaced by Michael Weikath from a band called Powerfool. He and Marcus Grosskopf are the only members of Helloween to still be with the band today.
Some of the material that would later be released on the first Helloween albums would be written during these early pre Helloween days, and other songs would later be recorded by Iron Savior, and Gamma Ray projects
The name Helloween was chosen by Kair Hanson because “Halloween comes but once a year, but you can have Helloween every day”
Helloween’s first release was the Death Metal comp by Noise Records in 1984, shortly after the signed w/ Noise.
Similar to Running Wild, the band was extremely raw and represents a more purely speed metal period for the band. This would be continued on all of the Kai on vocals era albums
The self titled EP and the full length were both produced by Harris Johns, who we discussed in the Thrash episode w/ Tankard. He is credited as Harris “I Don’t Know” Johns. And appropriately this is one of the earliest metal releases he is credited on. He is also credited w/ “Satanic Laughter” on “Victim of Fate” on the EP which is an early example of his long history of guest appearances on albums he produces
Uwe Karczewski worked exclusively on the cover art for the EP, his wife Edda would assist on the full length, and they would continue to work w/ Helloween until their post-Keeper material
The album was a moderate success but Kai was having trouble being both the lead singer and lead guitarist. The band would begin searching for a true front man, and teenaged Michael Kiske of the band Ill Prophecy would join the band in 1986. He rejected their first offer as he was not a fan of the Walls of Jericho sound but accepted their second, and helped turn Helloween from a speed metal band towards their classic sound
Starlight – Halloween 3 intro
How many tears, talk about the looming presence of the cold war in so many of these songs
Rage – Reign of Fear/Avenger – Prayers of Steel/Depraved to Black
Country: Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Disbanded: 1986 (Name Change)
Producer: Ferdinand Köther, Ralph Hubert (Studio Producer) (Mekong Delta dude)
Studio: Studio Wahn, Bochum
Peter “Peavy” Wagner – Vocals, Bass
Jochen Schröder – Guitars
Thomas Grüning (EP)/ Alf Meyerratken (LP)- Guitars
Jörg Michael – Drums
Avenger was formed in 1983, and quickly began recording. The earliest versions of the band included Klaus Müller on Bass and Jan Yildiral (later of Steeler) on Drums. Peter Burtz, also of Steeler was briefly in the band as well.
The line up eventually solidified with Jorg and taking over for drums and Peavy taking over bass duties. They then added Ald to the lineup.
This lineup then proceeded to record a series of demos, 3 in 1983, and one each in 1984 and 1985, before signing to Wishbone Records, a label that primarily acted as a german distributor of foreign bands, but was trying it’s hand to capitalize on the growing German metal scene
The album Prayers of Steel, featured lyrics that came about (in true Exorcist style) because the band were trying to write the most ridiculous and over the top lyrics they could.
Shortly after the release of Prayers of Steel, Alf was replaced by Thomas Gruning. This new lineup recorded the two new studio tracks on Depraved in Black. Shortly after this Avenger would sign to Noise Records.
She’s coming nearer
Oh, if she knew
She is so wanton
Genuine and new
My body’s hungry
Sweating in heat
I’m gonna give her
My rod of meat
Country: Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Label: Noise Records
Producer: Ralph “Ralf” Hubert, Karl-U. Walterbach (ExecPro)
Studio: Horus Sound Studio, Hannover, Germany
Artwork: Phil Lawvere
Peter “Peavy” Wagner – Vocals, Bass, Guitars
Jochen Schröder – Guitars
Thomas Grüning – Guitars
Jörg Michael – Drums
Avenger signed to Noise in 1986. Around this time they were made aware of another band using the name. Specifically they were told of the UK NWOBHM band Avenger.
Originally the band was going to be called Furious Rage, but this was dropped at some point between the change and the first album
They brought Ralph “Ralf” Hubert, their studio producer from the Avenger days along with them. Ralph is the bassist in german tech/thrash legends Mekong Delta and is the co-founder of Aaarrg Records along with Axel Theubaville who we mentioned when discussing Holy Moses
Similar to Helloween and Running Wild, this release sees Rage in a more primal speed metal form. It would take them slightly longer than some of their peers to truly develop into a traditional power metal band.
Cover artist Phil Lawvere was essentially a staff artist at Noise Records, and so his credits are obviously noteworthy. He is actually credited in some instances for being responsible for the naming of Rage and Kreator. In addition to doing most of Kreators albums, as well as the re-release art for Celtic Frost’s Morbid Tales
Karl-U. As mentioned in our thrash episode was the founder of Noise Records.
Thomas Gruning would leave the band after this album, being replaced by Rudy Graf, an early member of Warlock
Blind Guardian – Battalions of Fear (Lucifer’s Heritage Demos Symph of Doom/Battalions)
Country: Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia
Formed: 1984 (Lucifer’s Heritage), 1986
Released: Heritage Demos (85/86), Battalions (1988)
Label: LH (N/A), BG (No Remorse)
Producer: LH (N/A), BG (Kalle Trapp, Charly Rinne)
Studio: LH (SC-Sound Recordings), BG (Karo Studio)
Artwork: Van Waay Design
Hansi Kürsch – Vocals, Bass
André Olbrich – Guitars
Marcus Dork (‘85)/Christoph Theissen (‘86) – Guitars
Thomen Stauch (‘85)/Hans-Peter Frey (‘86) – Drums
Hansi Kürsch – Bass, Vocals
André Olbrich – Guitars
Marcus Siepen – Guitars
Thomen Stauch – Drums
The earliest version of what would become Blind Guardian featured Thomas Kelleners, future drummer of Heavenward as a second vocalist. By the time the first demo was released Thomas was gone, Lucifer’s Heritage was never stable. While Andre, and Hansi were constants, the second guitarist never lasted more than a year,
Drummer Thomen Stauch, though eventually the permanent drummer in Blind Guardian, at the time was in and out of the band, which is why he was replaced by Hans-Peter Frey on the Batllions of Fear demo.
The band then signed to No Remorse, a small Greek label at which point they changed their name.
The name change was done for two reasons, one to avoid connections to satanism, and second, as previouslt mentioned because their demos were being placed in the black metal section of record stores.
Much like the other bands, this debut was for more speed metal oriented than power, however Blind Guardian’s lyrical themes were cemented from the demo days.
The album is still highly regarded by fan’s and the track Majesty in particular remains a concert staple.
Executive Producer Charly Rinne was the first editor in chief of the german version of Metal Hammer, he is also an engineer and a photographer, his most famous photography work probably being Slayer’s Reign in Blood
Producer Kalle Trapp was a musician in the 60’s before opening Karo Studios, he had a tight knit relationship w/ No Remorse Records, being responsible for most of their output.
Prefer the Battalions of Fear demo to the album version
Paradox – Product of Imagination
Country: Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany
Formed: 1981-1983 (as Overkill), 1983-1984 (as Maniac), 1984-1986 (as Warhead) 1986-1991, Reformed in 1998
Label: Roadrunner Records
Producer: Kalle Trapp
Studio: Karo Studio
Artwork: Joe Petagno
Charly Steinhauer – Vocals, Guitars
Markus Spyth – Guitars
Roland Stahl – Bass
Axel Blaha – Drums
The pre-Paradox bands had a seemingly never ending lineup of Bassists, guitarists, and drummers. The two constants were Axel and Charly. At least two of these early bands, Overkill and Warhead were covers bands.
Once Paradox was a fully functioning originals band, with bassist Roland now in the band and Jochen Glöggler on lead guitar the lineup managed to record an untitled 1986 demo.
This demo got the attention of Roadrunner and the band was signed shortly after. However the lineup issues continued and Jochen was replaced by Markus Spyth.
While on Roadrunner this lineup recorded their 1987 demo Mystery this demo basically worked as a promo for their already in production album, as it was declared “Best Demo of the year” by several German press outlets.
Album was produced by Kalle Trapp and recorded at his Karo studio. Kalle is discussed more in depth in the Rage section, but it is notable that Paradox was outside of the No Remorse stable of artists.
Paradox received additional good press, and in many ways, were seen as the “next big thing” being far more accessible that their German peers, and they had major label backing, they were favorites in Germany, being voted in at least one contest as German metal fan’s favorite band behind Accept and Scorpions
The lineup was still unstable and Ron left to be replaced by Matthias “K.ter” Fries for the next album.
Their sophomore album Heresy, though now considered by many to be the superior of the the original run’s albums, it failed to maintain the band’s popularity, and the band broke up among inner turmoil and frustration over a lack of success.
Cover artist Joe Petagno is best known for creating the Motorhead War Pig logo, he also worked briefly at prominent art studio Hipgnosis which is most associated with Pink Floyd
Warrant – The Enforcer/First Strike EP
Country: Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Disbanded: 1985, reformed
Label: Noise Records
Producer: Horst Müller (First Strike)/Thomas Klein, Jörg Juraschek (Enforcer)
Studio: Caet Studio, Berlin, Germany.
Artwork: Phil Lawvere
Jörg Juraschek – Vocals, Bass
Lothar Wieners – Drums
Thomas Klein – Guitars
Oliver May – Guitars (Enforcer Only)
Sent Email to Jorg, hoping for some more info, band seemingly popped up out of nowhere, however we know they were playing in the same rehearsal space as Warlock and Assassin on Ronsdorfer street.
They signed to Noise, I am assuming based on live performances since there is no record of any demos or comp appearances prior to 1985.
The band’s entire recorded output is from 1985, slight stylistic shift between EP & LP, band appears to have shed some W.A.S.P esque glam influence.
After recording in 1985 the band went on tour with Warlock and broke up shortly after.
Lothar and Thomas went on to join female fronted band Monroxe w/ Jutta Mackenthun who released an EP in 1987 before also breaking up.
Thomas showed up briefly playing guitar in power metal band Savallion Dawn around 2001
Jörg has no credits outside of Warrant save for a single guest vocal appearance on an album by Chilean speed metal band Demona in 2012
A version of the band reformed in 1999 to record two new songs for the re-release of both albums by Noise in 2000. These tracks were originally for a planned 1986 sophomore album. Jorg and Oliver were only 2 “classic” members in the reunion. Oliver would stick around until 2011, when he left to join a new speed metal band called Ferromanic
The they released a second album in 2014 called “Metal Bridge” on Pure Steel Records, who has also re-released their back catalogue
Mephisto – Mephisto
Country: Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia
Disbanded: Yes, but year unknown
Label: Miracle Records (Distributed by Wishbone)
Producer: Stefan Josefus
Studio: Most likely Franz K. Studio
Uwe Suerick – Vocals, Guitars
Andreas Rippelmeier – Guitars
Andres Hladik – Guitars
Marc Schulz – Bass
Wolfgang Mann – Drums
Virtually no info on the band. Metal Archives states that they were originally called Roy Bean, and a collection of rare demo material was released in 1996, but can find no record of this release
Band recorded a sophomore LP called In Search of Lost Refuge in 1991 before splitting up at some point after.
I assume the band broke up almost immediate after because Andreas R. and Marc showed up on Heavenward’s second album A Future Worth Talking About? in 1992. (Same band original second BG vocalist Thomas Kelleners formed)
All other members have no other musical credits post Mephisto
Miracle Records was founded by producer Stefan Josefus
Stefan was the drummer in a DeutchRock band called Franz K along with his brother Peter who was their drummer and vocalist. Peter also Engineered Mephisto’s album
DeutchRock, as it was defined at the time, was the german language equivalent of the psych-blues scene in the UK and America in the later 60’s early 70’s a la Blue Cheer, Cream, etc.
DeutchRock should not be confused with KrautRock, the similarly named scene for the german experimental scene of the 70s
In addition to running the label Stefan owns and operates a publisher MSJ-Musikverlag, and Frank Z studios.
While Miracle is not quite on the same level as Noise in terms of eventual impact, their multiple businesses were part of the german underground scene. Miracle Released only 3 other metal albums Peter and Stefen did behind the boards work for several other bands
Discuss the neoclassical elements on the album, the cleaner vocals comparatively, the comparisons to this to some mid 90’s Swedish releases.
Airwolf – Victory Bells
Country: Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Disbanded: Yes (Year Unknown)
Label: Rockport Records
Producer: Thomas Alkämper
Studio: Franz K. Studio
Artwork: Helmut Diefenbach
Andreas Roschak – Bass
Thomas Alkämper – Drums
Guido Braun – Guitars
Frank Zellmann – Vocals, Guitars
Another band with no info that seemingly came from nowhere. Thomas had one other credit, having played in Metal Sword immediately prior to the formation of Airwolf
Mention “Stormbreaker” in particular as an example of some of the general connections to later power metal
This band may be the most direct connection we have to Accept’s influence on power metal
Note the recording at Frank Z. Studio, and that album was recorded live in studio
Rockport Records, was more a part of the speed/trad scene that immediately preceded this scene, having released debuts or early work by Cacumen, Killer, and Trance, in fact this would be the last major heavy metal release from Rockport save for later day Trance albums.
Heavy military themes,
Stormwitch – Walpurgis Night
Country: Gerstetten, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Formed: 1979 (As Lemon Sylvan) 1981-1994
Disbanded: 1994, reformed in 2002
Label: GAMA International
Producer: Holger Dolzitzki
Andy Mück – Vocals
Harald Spengler – Guitars (lead)
Stefan Kauffmann – Guitars (rhythm)
Ronny Gleisberg – Bass
Peter Langer – Drums
Band was almost completely stable from their formation in 1979 w/ exception of the bass position, which Ronny filled shortly before the recording of the album.
In 1984 the band met with Peter Garratoni and Günther Marek, owners of GAMA with some self recorded songs. This led to a signing.
Shortly after this the band recorded this debut live in the studio. This was a deliberate choice by the band to get the sound they wanted
Producer Holger Dolzitzki only has one other recording credit, Tyran Pace’s first album. Tyran Pace is Ralf Scheepers from Primal Fear’s first band.
Manfred Lohse the engineer has done work on several obscure german bands. The most relevant to us so far would be for a 1990 album by Creed, which was Andy Gutjahr’s pre-Tankerd band (He was Andy Boulgaropoulos’ replacement after his post wedding retirement)
This lineup for this album would remain stable for a good number of years. This would be less the case after their fourth album, the glam metal influenced The Beauty and the Beast in 1987. The band wouldn’t stick to the glam sound but would become increasingly symphonic over time.
The band would also start integrating Baroque period costumes into their stage show in 1986
This is actually one of very few albums actually released under the GAMA label. This label is well known to serious collectors or fans of this period, but most of their material is released under one of their half dozen or so sub-labels. (possible future mini-sode)
Skull and Crossbones – early pirate metal
Iron Angel – Hellish Crossfire
Country: Hamburg, Germany
Formed: 1980-1983 (as Metal Gods), 1983-1987, 2014-present
Producer: Horst “Hoddle” Müller
Studio: Caet Studio, Berlin, East-Germany
Artwork: Uwe Karczewski (Cover Art), Edda Karczewski (All Other Artwork)
Peter “Piet” Wittke (R.I.P. 2000) – Guitars
Dirk Schröder – Vocals
Sven Strüven (R.I.P. 2008) – Guitars
Mike Matthes – Drums
Thorsten Lohmann – Bass
The band began as Metal Gods and they were primarily a tribute band to begin, per their bio they originally did not inspire to do much but play music they loved in their hometown.
At some point in 1983 they began playing originals and changed their name.
Their first demos are extremely raw, and would fit right in with early Bathory or Celtic Frost
This trend continues though with much more polish on this album, along with StormWitch, and Running Wild I think this is probably the best case for German power’s influence on 90’s black metal
The band would record a follow up album in 1986 called Winds of War which was not well received upon it’s release. Retrospectively it is now considered a competent effort though it is far less “evil” than the previous album so I can see why people would be disappointed at the time.
After this tensions arose between the band with some members wanting to go more commercial and introduce some glam influence while others wanted to stay the course, the band fell apart amongst this turmoil.
Dirk and Mike would move on to play in J.R. Blackmore’s Superstition. (Ritchie’s Son)
Pete and 1986 live bassist Günther Moritz would form a thrash band called Roots that recorded a demo called Now in 1999.
A reunion with Mike, Pete, and Dirk was in the planning stages in 2000 but was cut short when Peter was killed in a car accident that year.
The band did sporadically exist in some form or another as old demo recordings and live shows was put together, and the became a fully formed band again in 2014, but with only Dirk being a consistent member
It is notable that this was released on a major label, unlike the bulk of these bands, especially the less well known ones, but notice the presence of Horst and Caet Studios again
Living in the Dark
Attack – Danger In The Air
Country: Nordhorn, Lower Saxony, Germany
Producer: Thomas “T.R.O.S.” St. Jones
Studio: Prosound Studios, Hannover.
Artwork: Ossi Osswald
Ricky van Helden – Bass, Vocals, Guitars, Drums
Helge Engelke – Guitars
Andy Kammer – Guitars
Thomas “T.R.O.S.” St. Jones – Keyboards
There is some mention of some early demo material on their metal archives page, including some work that preceded this.
The band is (obvious from the credits) really Ricky’s band. The guitarists and keyboardists seem to be more “hired hands” especially in the case of Helge who has multiple other credits.
The label/studio also seem to be just as mysterious, having only released this and an EP by a band called Tempest in 1987, though they do have some additional non-metal releases in the 1980s
Similarly the engineer Volker Bublitz, and engineer/mixer Michael Vojinovic-Westerwinter have limited credits outside of this, though Michael did return for the bands next album
There later work is usually considered stronger material, however most of that criticism seems to be aimed at the keyboards, which I think are what makes the album most interesting from a historical standpoint, possibly as an early forebear of dungeon synth
I also think some of the high fantasy themes of later period power are more present here
Atlain – Living In The Dark
Country: Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Label: Mausoleum Records
Producer: Axel Thubeauville
Studio: Wahn, Bochum, Germany
Artwork: Detlef Braun
Andre Chapelier – Bass
Chris Efthimiadis – Drums
Andreas Büttner – Guitars
Jörg ‘Pritze’ Pryzarski – Guitars
Peter Müller – Vocals
Again virtually no info on this band prior to the recording of their debut, they did release one similar sounding demo prior to this.
The band would be featured on a 1985 comp called Metallic Bunny’s Fast Collection. (Mention funny cover)
They would record a second album called G.O.E. before splitting up
Andre went on to play on Holy Moses’ second album Finished with the Dogs. He also did some assistant engineering work at their later period label Earthshaker (Carrie, and Living Death)
Jorg would join a band called Rigor Mortis, not to be confused with any of the number of other bands with this name (this band recorded nothing)
Chris would go on to be a long serving drummer for Rage, from 1987-1999, and has continued to play drums with Sub7even, King’s Tonic, Tri State Corner, and Refuge though none of these bands have recorded anything.
Peter would be in a prog band called Faithealer in the 90’s that never made it past the demo stage and is currently the vocalist for a band called Crossbow.
Mausoleum, founded by Alfie Falckenbach, who also occasionally works in art direction and production, is another interesting exception to the label situation in that they are a somewhat well known label and still exist to this day.
I have to wonder if their experience with Axel as a producer swayed them to move to his Earthshaker label (as a refresher he founded Shark (Antidote) and Aaarg (Holy Moses), but should note that Earthshaker and Mausoleum appear to have a lot of shared albums in their catalogs so assume this would have been on good terms
Album was engineered by Ralf Hubert, the mastermind behind Mekong Delta, and behind the boards extraordinaire, who co-founded Aarg with Axel and works with him regularly
Artist Detlef Braun will also be mentioned in the Brainfever section and has worked on several other early power covers
Sweet Cheater – Immortal Instant
Country: Bremen, Germany
Disbanded: Unknown but had to be prior to 1987
Producer: Appy Fischer
Studio: HGM studios, Bielfeld
Andy Müller Jones – Bass
Alex Zazzo – Drums
Manny Meccyca – Guitars
Mick Sebastian – Guitars
Björn Bargsteen – Vocals
Another band with no history. Guys got together, recorded a demo titled Messenger of Fear in 1985 before signing with Flametrader
This was actually the first band to have an album on Flametrader, a subsidiary of slightl larger label Semaphore.
Producer Appy Fischer, and Engineer Manfred “Mannix Mechanix” Wahl seem to be a combo pack. They each only have two other credits, for bands called Siren and Fortuner all in 1986, they appear to be staff of the label.
Alex and Manny went on to form a prog metal band called Secrecy that released two albums in the early 90s
Michael would go on to play on another german power metal band Final Prophecy’s 1988 demo, and was briefly in power metal band Perfect Crime for an EP in 1997. They would change their name to Eternal Reign and continue to play to this day
Discuss production on this album compared to some of the others, wonder if extra money was pumped into this as it was label’s first release
Brainfever – Capture the Night
Country: Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia/Syke, Lower Saxony
Disbanded: ???, Reuninited in 2016
Label: Mausoleum Records
Producer: Appy Fischer
Studio: HGM studios, Bielfeld
Artwork: Detlef Braun
Horst Neumann – Vocals
Marco Böttcher – Guitars
Heinz Schreiber – Bass
Frank Marowsky – Drums
Brainfever has existed in some form since the mid 70’s there is little to no information about what kind of music this form of the band played, or who was in the band at the time, we only know that Marco is the only surviving member of this period, and was one of the founding members
The members have no recorded output prior to or after Brainfever
The band would continue on after this, with a rotating drum spot, for the next album Face to Face and their final EP You.
The You EP would feature a new singer, Marc Simon.
Marc would also be the singer in the reunion, all other original members from this album returned.
The organ intro on The Hangman is played by prominent German pianist and composer Dietmar Bonnen, this is notable as his only heavy metal credit.
This Album is another Axel and Ralf collaborative effort behind the boards w/ Ralf again doing the engineering, though should be noted Marco contributed to the mixing.
Stranger – The Bell
Country: Senden, Bavaria, Germany
Disbanded: Yes, But year unknown
Label: Hot Blood Records
Producer: Peter Ehrenfeld
Studio: Musiclab, Berlin
Rikki Rieger – Guitars, Songwriting
Wolfgang Reuter – Bass
Thomas Imbacher – Drums
Wolfgang Pleyer – Guitars
Gerd Salewski – Vocals
Again now info on early history of the band, they seem to have almost immediately gotten signed to Hot Blood and recorded The Bell.
The band did record a follow up, the synth heavy and ballad laden Pretty Angels but it was widely panned by their fans and ignored by critics.
Should be noted this was virtually a new band save for Rikki.
Gerd would go on to perform with the band Chroming Rose
Rikki would actually also join Chroming Rose a year later, after the debut was released.
Thomas went on to play with Gravestone starting with their Creating a Monster album in 1986
Hot Blood is one of the many GAMA subsidiaries, probably it’s most well known signees being Tokyo Blade and S.D.I.
Producer Pete only has one other credit, and independent release for Trad band Thunder (not the UK hard rock band)
Comparisons to Walls of Jericho, talk about the presence of ballads